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Palestinians say Israel rejected plea for sick hunger-striker

Published: Updated:

Israel has rejected appeals to release a Palestinian prisoner on a life-endangering long-term hunger strike to the West Bank, Palestinian prisoner affairs minister Issa Qaraqea told AFP on Saturday.

Qaraqea said that Israeli officials told him on Saturday that Samer Issawi, who has intermittently refused food for more than eight months, “is in critical condition and might die at any moment.”

Issawi, 33, was first arrested in 2002 and sentenced to 26 years for militant activity in the leftist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

He was released by Israel under a prisoner swap in October 2011, but rearrested last July for violating the terms of the agreement by travelling to the Israeli-occupied West Bank from annexed Arab east Jerusalem.

An Israeli official charged on Friday that Issawi had gone to the West Bank to establish “terror cells”.

Israel has ordered that he serve the remainder of his original sentence.

Issawi’s health has deteriorated because of his prolonged fast, and he was being held in an Israeli hospital. The Israeli official said he could “immediately be released to Gaza.”

Qaraqea said that the Palestinians had requested that he be released temporarily to the West Bank.

“We proposed that they release him to Ramallah for a while and they refused,” he said.

“We agreed to send him to Europe for a few months to receive medical treatment and then come back again but they refused.”

The Israeli official said on Friday that Israel had told the European Union and the United Nations that it was willing to free Issawi and deport him overseas but his lawyer said his client strongly rejected the proposal.

An EU spokesman said no “official” proposal had been received.

Issawi is the last of four Palestinian prisoners who were on extended hunger strikes in Israeli prisons, after two ended their fast in February and a third was exiled from the West Bank last month to the Gaza Strip for 10 years.